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    The Well-stocked Medicine Cabinet | Spring 2004 Out Here Magazine


    a first-aid kit on the corner of a bathroom vanity
    Out Here

    By Bethanne Black

    Photography by Jeff Frazier

    When you live a long way from a doctor's office, it's essential to have a well-stocked medicine cabinet to protect your family's health.

    "The contents of a well-stocked medicine cabinet will vary for different people and families, depending on each family member's needs and health conditions, their vulnerability to illnesses and accidents, and access to healthcare," says Joseph Deffenbaugh, an American Society of Health-System Pharmacists director.

    You can't, of course, anticipate every potential emergency, Deffenbaugh says, but it's a good idea to keep these essentials on hand:

    • A cleansing solution and antiseptics for cuts, burns, blisters, and minor wounds.
    • Calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, or oral antihistamines for poison ivy. An antihistamine ointment may be used for minor skin rashes. Calamine also is good for most insect bites.
    • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for minor pain, muscle aches, and reducing fever. Stock adult and child formulas as appropriate.
    • Anti-diarrhea medication.
    • Cough syrup.
    • Cough and sore throat lozenges.
    • A triple antibiotic ointment.
    • A fever thermometer (and rectal thermometer for children).
    • An ice pack and heating pad.
    • Sterile gauze and bandages.
    • Droppers for giving medications to children.
    • A first-aid manual.

    First-aid and over-the-counter medications never should replace your pharmacist's or doctor's care. "Always seek advice from your pharmacist or physician about the proper items to have on hand for each family member," Deffenbaugh advises.

    Consider other factors when stocking your medicine cabinet, he suggests:

    • If you take long-term prescription drugs, have at least five to seven days' supply on hand, particularly in regions where extreme weather occasionally prevents travel.
    • Medicine cabinets should not be located in bathrooms, kitchens, or other rooms with high humidity and heat, both of which cause most drug products to lose potency. Keep your medications in a cool, dry place, such as a hall closet or pantry.
    • Secure your medicine chest to prevent children from getting into it.

    Bethanne Black is a freelance journalist who lives in Atlanta.

    THE 3 Rs OF

    REVIEW all medications and throw out medications past their expiration date.

    REMOVE and discard medications that have a noticeable change in color, form, or smell, or if the label or package instructions are missing or illegible.

    RESTOCK your medications and perishable products with fresh replacements. This includes ointments, lotions, and any item that loses potency over time. Check each over-the-counter product for an expiration date.


    Parents once were advised to keep syrup of ipecac on hand to induce vomiting if a child had swallowed a poisonous substance, but the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that ipecac no longer be used.

    Dispose of syrup of ipecac by flushing it down the toilet.

    There is no evidence that vomiting helps children who ingest a poisonous substance, the academy says.

    Additionally, continued vomiting caused by syrup of ipecac can result in a child being unable to tolerate activated charcoal or other poison treatments.

    So if you know or suspect your child has ingested something poisonous, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 and/or 911.


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